09.29.11

Corporate America Hates You (the infrequent series)

Posted in Decline and Fall at 12:23 pm by George Smith

Reading, PA, is now officially the face of poverty in the US. It is of personal interest because it is where DD earned his undergrad degree in biochemistry.

Back then it was a blue collar town anchored by heavy industry, most notably at Carpenter Technology and Kawecki Beryllium, and textile mills.

Reading was also a pretzel, candy and cough drops (Luden’s) manufacturing center. Candy and pretzels remain. It seems those industries cannot be entirely shipped off to China. But remuneration is very poor. (Corporate America has been hard on Luden’s too. It was sold to Hershey, the Great Satan of candy-making, and then to others even less interested. Click the link.)

Everyone knows now that national policies and the very upper class saw to it that this was all destroyed.

Mass unemployment is entrenched in Reading. The jobs that the US economy does create, thanks to compression of wages and the relentless destruction of labor rights, don’t pay enough to make even a reasonable living. Waves of teachers fired at the state level due to the economic collapse now view for jobs that pay minimally.

From the New York Times:

Even for young people with a bachelor’s degree, the economy is making life difficult. Vickie Moll, who runs the day care center, said the number of applications from teachers who have lost their jobs had grown as the waves of budget cuts washed over the state. “We have people in here with bachelor’s degrees making $8 an hour,” she said.

Social services feel the effects, too. The Greater Berks Food Bank — Reading is the Berks County seat — is on track to distribute six million pounds of food this year, up from three and a half million pounds in 2007, said Doug Long, manager of marketing …

And jobs just seem to pay less. Ms. Santiago recently took a temporary job at a candy factory where she had worked more than eight years ago, when she was still in her 20s, before she had completed her associate’s degree. At the time she was making $10.50 an hour. In her most recent stint, her hourly wage was $9.25.

“Eight years ago I said, ‘I don’t want to do this, I have to further my education,’ ” she said. “And now here I am, still packing candy, and making less.”

Taylor Swift, the most famous of young country pop singers, is from Wyomissing, one of the nicer enclaves near the city. As throughout America, poverty is speckled by those adjacent areas where many things still seem just fine.

It is a feature of modern America, one that defines the country. Poverty, almost but not quite hidden amid the greenery. If you choose to you can squint a bit and not see the decay. And it is probably one reason that violent rioting, now overdue, hasn’t yet erupted.

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